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Episode 145: How ESG, Emerging Pollutants and New Regulations are Changing the Face of Landfill Design and Operation

In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, we bring you the dynamic keynote from the Global Waste Management Symposium, “How ESG, Emerging Pollutants and New Regulations are Changing the Face of Landfill Design and Operation.”
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In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, we bring you the dynamic keynote from the Global Waste Management Symposium, “How ESG, Emerging Pollutants and New Regulations are Changing the Face of Landfill Design and Operation.”

You will get a deep dive into these topics with James Little, executive vice president - engineering and disposal, at Waste Connections.

Here’s a sneak peek into the talk:

Little set the stage by noting that, in the past two years, assets under management for ESG-related funds have increased from $1.6 trillion to $4 trillion, and they continue to grow. And, the interest from investors and others, have increased accordingly. Investors, he noted, “want more granularity in our disclosures about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, and that’s going to require some uniformity.”

Little went on to observe that, “there’s never been a more exciting time to be in the industry.” However, “Small and rural market landfills are under enormous cost pressure now. We’ve closed or are exiting several small operating contracts as we speak, because the costs are too high to keep up with the regulatory environment.”

A few years ago, Little noted, Waste Connections started to look seriously at its carbon footprint. And, by changing its operating practices, it has been able to significantly reduce its impact. “Every landfill is different, and there is no one-solution-fits-all.” He gave examples from several of the company’s landfills, including the one in Seneca, NY, which successfully utilizes geomembrane caps. He acknowledged, however, that this is not a feasible option for many operators due to financial or logistic considerations.

Little went on to discuss the value of optical sorting and robotic arms, and how Waste Connections is utilizing these in many of its facilities. “Consider the impact for EPR for a second,” he said; “it’s a very good thing because it adds a very significant stakeholder and it’s resulting in more recyclable products being put into the industry.” He also noted that Waste Connections “and all of the major industry companies have recently announced major capital investments and partnerships for significant Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) assets around their landfill fleets.”

Little offered a challenge to vendors and researchers: “We need more cost-effective and scalable treatment technology, and we need it fast.” And, “If I had to answer the question of what keeps me up at night, it’s not necessarily PFAS; it’s leachate in general.”

Listen to the full episode above.

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